casual games

One of the patches will give you 30K in food. Great for lazy starters, and the other gives 1 million tech points, great for impatient starters.

The instructions are there as well. Even though I’ve never tested it on Vista, there are people who left comments with instructions on how to get it to run on Vista. Please check the thread there instead of asking here!

[2008.10.24 – Ok, is down for good until I transfer the domain. Here are the links to the patches:]

If you don’t know what this game is, you have to try it. You absolutely have to try it. It’s the best game on the Big Fish Games community. Click this button and play it – heck, it’s free!

Hail to the Farm 51 team,

Love the new update! Gave us tons more to do. After playing for a few days, here are a few suggestions and a few certain elusive bugs. I’ve been playing this game for weeks now, so mind the length of this email. Thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

Well, the bugs first.

I’m using Mozilla Firefox latest version Java version 6 update 5 1.6.1_05-b13
2 gigs of ram, windows xp sp2.

If you click on the bank balance to open the ledger, it will work 3 times. Then when you click on it again. nothing will show up. Not a showstopper, but definitely annoying if you like to check your year to date every once in a while. Restarting the game by reloading it fixes the problem. The bullet buttons also work in strange funky ways. If you click on one, something else is selected. Weird.

Sometimes clicking on the silo to open the inventory and then clicking on an item can freeze the game. This is pretty random.

Suggestions – (in no particular order; the numbers are just for show)

1. This is probably intentional, but fuel acquisition doesn’t take into account of the cost of the crop circle. So if you only get 3 fuel it actually costs $20k per, while getting over 15 runs the cost down to $10K per. This is kind of misleading since there is a choice to get Cash instead, and people are probably thinking that it works the same way.

2. Free range cows should make more milk than penned cows. Giving them access to a river should mean they don’t need water. Chickens and cows shouldn’t have to be fed if they are given more than 15 squares to roam during the warm months. All this would add the realism of the game. Also, robo-animals should be “fixed” not “healed.” We should also be able to sell cows or even just to let them go – bombing them is a bit uh…inhumane, ya?

3. The alien planet is pretty useless once you max out gnurdaculture. There should be a bit more to do there. A scratch card, maybe? A riddle?

4. If you make a “deluxe” version of this game where you can download it and play it in full screen, I’d buy it. I know lots of people who’d buy it. It’d also be virtually unhackable if you keep an “online only” game where you can get tokens and an “offline mode” where you can’t. Something like the deluxe game son where they include chat.

5. This game needs more screen space. Since you probably can’t provide that, I’d settle for #4. πŸ™‚

6. Having multiple tractors should mean that you can harvest multiple fields at once.

7. The illusionator should have a wider range. Or the kind of range that the barn or shed should have. i.e. one should protect 6 / whatever number you decide regardless of where they are. It just makes sense – I mean, if I can have my hovershed above the river and all my iq enhancers below the river, the illusionator should be able to protect them even if it’s in the upper corner of the map.

8. A few buttons that I don’t think anybody really use on a regular basis: Buy building, animals, equipment, fences, Settings, Help, repair / heal and skills. You have a buy / build menu like your decorations menu, fences should really be under decoration, healing should be done in the barn, skills can go under inventory. You get the picture. Having so many buttons confuses new players and annoy the old ones.

9. When you sell ALL of something, the menu should stay where it is, not jump to the top.

10. a penultimate “fix all” button would be nice.

11. I love this game – keep up the good work! Thanks for reading all this, if you did. πŸ™‚

The MinuteGamer

It is DONE! You can find it over at the site. I’ve linked it directly to make it easier to find.

The walkthrough includes all storyline solution videos, videos for all the harder puzzles, hints for the minor puzzles like pegs, images for all the traffic map puzzles near the end of the game, in a spoiler-free top page. Enjoy!

There are lots of game portals out there, and each offer some sort of loyalty program, discounts, coupon codes and so on. Instead of trying to cram all the information into a blog post, I’ve tabulated the features that most causal gamers care about in their portals, and added “perks” and “quirks” of each in a related article.

You can check out the article at, under the GAMES section.

I was quite enamored with the first Flood Light Games’ Agatha Christie game, Death on the Nile. To be frank, enamored wouldn’t be quite the word – I loved it. I’ve also played it too many times to be productive in my other endeavors. It was a seriously groundbreaking hidden object game. It had puzzles, it had adventure elements, it was detailed, well-drawn, and it was everything a hidden object game ought to be. I’ll also never forget that it came first.

Peril At End House is a bit of a mixed disappointment, in that regard. It does a lot of things right – 1024 x 768 resolution that runs smooth as silk, lovely classical style music in the background, unobtrusive sound effects, a puzzle in every room. However, it suffers from a lack of innovation. I guess the problem is mostly me (as will be for other gamers who has played the first game) and I’m expecting too much. Instead of getting something new, I’m getting more of the same. While this isn’t necessarily unwelcome, the time between the last game and this one led me to believe that there would be more.

This second Agatha Christie game from Floodlight games is very much like the first one. You start off with Poirot deciding that he will pursue the case, go through the rooms of each of the suspects, look for objects, find clues, and the mystery is linearly solved for you along the way. What differs the Agatha Christie games from the usual run-of-the-mill hidden object games is the attention to detail. Everything is crisp and clear, scenes are very well composed with most of the objects in plausible places.

Death on the Nile was a great game, and Peril at End House is, at the core, the same game. There aren’t any surprises – the quality is there and the puzzles are there. Instead of the old videos in between scenes, we now get a comic telling the story instead. The “saloon” where you can interview the suspects are now replaced by “CLUE” cards. “Interviews” are one-sided and really just a card in the page.

If you’ve played the first one, you will want to play this one. However, the rooms feel a lot less populated and I cannot help but feel that the game was rushed. Peril At End House should’ve been an “improvement” considering how successful the first game was, but instead of the boost in production values, there has been a cut. It’s still worth getting despite of it all; the scenes are still beautifully composed, and the story is still quality Agatha Christie.

I actually looked forward to this game. I anticipated it. I waited for it. If there was a line, I was waiting in line for it. After having all these high expectations (afterall, it’s the first and only game based on one of my favorite movies) I must say that I’m sorely disappointed. It’s like opening a box of really nice looking chocolates only to find that they’re all cherry creams.

Dirty Dancing is very much like a box of assorted chocolates. Technically. In a box of assorted chocolates, you get the caramel crunch and the mint creams; occasionally you’ll run into an undesirable “nougat” or “orange cream.” This is a game of mini-games – 10, to be exact, with one extra one to spend all your points on to decorate. Unfortunately, these mini-games range from “rather interesting” to “dreadfully boring” as well as “almost unplayable.” I’m going to go through each of these in turn.

Breakfast Buffet
Easily the best of the bunch. It’s a drag-3 in a hexagonal format, not unlike Cindy’s Sundaes. Instead of the usual match-3 in a line, Breakfast Buffet allows you to match anything that touches, which makes the game a bit easier. When a match is made, the progress bar on the left increases. When it fills up, you finish the level.

The introduction of flies, desserts and rotting plates makes it a bit more interesting. When you match desserts, you gain “shuffle plates” and you can hold 3 of these at a time. Clicking on them shuffles the entire board. Flies and rotting plates prevent rows from being dragged and seem to work exactly the same way.

Pinhole Mahjong
A semi-interesting solitaire card game that plays like mahjong. You get more cards as levels go on, but it doesn’t really get more challenging.

Bellboy Bedlam
Well, they’ve got the Bedlam part down. You have 4 bellboys, a bunch of customers, and 4 rooms. The bellboys will stay at their post and perform their individual functions. When you drag them to a different location they will perform a different function: greet, check-in, clean, and check out. The only issue is that rooms take too long to clean, and there are too many customers. This is the one mini-game that I didn’t find very playable at all.

Talent Show Search
An object hunting game. With drawn objects that are outline and flat color only. There are drawers that can be opened, and things hiding behind others, but the objects are just too crudely drawn for this to be enjoyable. The objects are also not very responsive; even if you find the right object, it might take a few tries for your mouse to pick it up.

It’s pinball. Nothing more, nothing less. There are some good song snippets to be had, that’s all.

Dance Contest
This is the supposed highlight of the game. There are 6 songs in all to unlock, and 3 levels of dancing for each. The premise is pretty simple: circles will appear on the ground with a radial green bar that indicates when you should click. Technically, it does it right on the beat, but the best place to click is 1/4 beat before it hits the end. Now, couple that with a sound effect that comes in just a bit late and you’ve got a rhythmic disaster on your hands. If you turn off the sound effects, this game is VERY playable with decent music. With sound effects on, this game is impossible.

Video Jigsaw
A jigsaw puzzle where the image is a looping video from the movie dirty dancing. I wonder why they didn’t loop an extra few frames in each backwards to make the transitions smoother, but it almost looks like it hiccups. This is a very high scoring game, and if you want to unlock all the other games early, this is the one to play. You can rack up enough points in 6-7 rounds to buy up everything else easily. Each finished puzzle also unlocks a movie clip where the audio is too low compared to the rest of the game, and isn’t viewable again unless you do the puzzle again.

Melon Mayhem
Slider Puzzle. Not much special about it at all. Make a path by moving dancer slider blocks to let a melon through. Very, very low scoring.

Log Balance
Move your mouse from left to right to keep yourself balanced on the log. Jump over knots, and slap fishes. (No joke.) It’s a bit of a non-game. You can ignore the fish if you like.

A simple trivia game for the movie Dirty Dancing.

This is where you can place furniture in your cabin and buy additional things for the pool and patio. There are 2 rooms and two outdoor locations where you can arrange furniture and generally play house. You can use the money you’ve accumulated during your mini-games to buy stuff. There are lots of stuff to buy, but to what end?

Dirty Dancing tries to be many things, but the lackluster presentation as well as the horrid sound effects (low quality), on top of the already generic mini-games made it one of the worst games I’ve played this year. This will only appeal to fans of the movie, and even at that, it didn’t appeal to me and I sat through Havana Nights.

Kloonigames is a company that releases experimental freeware games every month – usually these are completely off the wall and features gameplay mechanics that’s never been used before (no dash games or hidden object games for you) and naturally, I check every once in a while to see what’s new. There’s one game already posted here quite like Crayon Physics, but that’s a flash game. This is a downloadable freeware game from Kloonigames.

Basically, in Crayon Physics you’re given a piece of paper to draw stuff on, and the aim is to get the ball to the star. That’s it. You can make rocks, draw ladders, what have you, as long as the result is a 2D platform area where you can get the ball to the star. And yes, it’s much more complicated and requires more strategy than you might think. It’s even alt-tab friendly and plays in fullscreen.

Play Crayon Physics here.

Once that’s got you hooked, the developer is working on a full version of the game that involves much more complicated physics – axle and rotation and wheels and all that, and all it requires is your imagination. You can check out a Youtube video here:

And sign up for their newsletters hoping to be the first to know when it does come out.

One major complaint about most object hunting games from casual gamers is the lack of replayability. Granted, they have a point. Once you’ve seen a scene 5 or 6 times, you’ve basically memorized where most everything is. Lucky Clover got around this by having a lot of locations for a given object, and then randomizing. Lucky Clover boasts 270 locations and 75 levels – much, much more than your usual object hunting game. Then again, it isn’t your usual object hunting game. It is much, much less.

The core game of Lucky Clover involves finding multiple lucky charms in each location. Each level might be just one location or a few, and you’re looking for charms. These charms are shapes that are hidden in the photographic locations, and depending on your chosen difficulty level, can be either obviously visible or very faint outlined shapes. I played this on medium, and it can sometimes be pretty hard to find the charms. Each time you find a charm, points will be added to your pot of gold. Using hints cost you gold, and gold ticks down (time is money) as you play the level. This is a pretty novel idea and I rather like it. Problem is, that’s all about all there is to this game.

There is a pretense of a mini-game, and it’s rather like finding bunnies in magicians’ hats. You get to pick a prize semi-randomly at the end of each level, and the prizes are collected and displayed on your prize screen. It’s not much of a mini-game; it requires one click. Then you’re off to look for charms again.

Lucky Clover boasts 270 locations. This is technically true. There are 270 locations. However, these locations are photographic, and they consist mostly of ruined castles (stone), a lot of fields (green), and a big patch of sky. Pretty much every one of them looks like that. They’ll also have cartoon mythical characters drawn on top of them, and while they fit the theme of the game, each one of them stands out like a sore thumb compared to the photographic backgrounds. So while there are 270 locations, it feels more like 10. Hey look, here’s another view of a ruined castle!

While some object hunting fans may enjoy the challenge of being able to hunt for semi-transparent shapes amongst yet another green hedge, I found this one addictive for an hour and then got extremely boring. It’s the monotony of it all – look for more shapes in more brown/orange stone and grass. Rinse and repeat. Our Leprechaun relieves the boredom by spouting a joke every time you start a map, and the music is fitting to the whole Irish theme, but it’s not much more than a twitch game of hide and seek.

Lucky Clover saves mid-level, and is technically a Minute Game. It loads and closes on a dime, and is also alt-tab friendly. It takes 3 clicks to exit the game – 2 more than necessary. Once you start, you can’t stop … but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the impending monotony.

You might wonder why it took me so long – I’ve written trainers for various games for kicks, and here’s my favorite hidden object game that doesn’t have a relax mode. This one’s always giving me heart palpitations. I just never thought of it before. Actually, it wasn’t my idea. It’s a commenter’s. So I loaded up the game again and wrote one…it only took 10 minutes, and another 20 minutes letting the time run down to test it. Here it is:

Agatha Christie – Death on the Nile Time Stopper.

I’ve tested it on both (oh it makes me giddy to type that) of my computers running the same version of the game. It’s the one from Reflexive, and it should work on the same game you download from other portals. All you have to do is load up the game, load up the file, unzip it, run it, and click on “stop time.” It doesn’t matter if the game is full-screen or windowed, it should work. After getting emails all the time about my trainers, here’s a run down.

What the trainer will do:

  • It will stop the timer in Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile.

What the trainer will not do:

  • It will not let you play the game for free by stopping the evaluation timer. That’s NOT what a game trainer is for.
  • It will not stop the game from penalizing you if you make random clicks – that would be too easy now, wouldn’t it?
  • It is not a Trojan. I just tested it with Avast! and it cleared, but AVG might give a false positive because it does go into memory, fetches a value from the game, and changes it.
  • It is also not a Trojan because I’m a bit of a hack when it comes to these things and the only thing I know how to do are change $ values in games and stopping timers. πŸ™‚

I’ve also only tested it on one version of the game, and since casual games rarely display their version numbers on startup screens, I have no idea which one it is. I have re-downloaded it from Reflexive to make sure I have the latest version, so any version you download as of now should work.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m beginning to get hidden-object-burnout-syndrome. Thankfully, there are enough twists and turns along the usual path to keep me entertained. Hidden Relics, albeit short, definitely kept my interest up unti the very last chapter.

Hidden Relics does quite a few things right: high resolution, clean objects, bright environments, extra things to hunt. It also has a great collection of mini-games that almost rival Azada. Added innovations like a handbook of what objects look like as well as bonus hidden objects to hunt for that can only be found using special gadgets add to the fun.

Let’s start with the environments. Hidden Relics feature clean, crisp backgrounds in layers so things are hidden both in, behind, and on top of the backgrounds. Objects are photo based, so it’s pretty clear what everything is. If you’re unsure what you’re looking for, there is always the handbook – an encyclopedia of exactly what you are looking for. Everything trick in the book is utilized: in plain sight, with a corner showing, with a corner of an unrecognizable piece showing, with the alpha channel set to 10% (ultra transparent pair of scissors you’ve got there!) as well as other ways of hiding objects are all here.

I’m pretty darn good at these games. Now, I can generally go through them with plenty of time left the first time around, but this one had me stressed quite a bit over the last few hard-to-find objects. Namely, the ones that I couldn’t even see after I click on the hint button. This game definitely ranks as one of the hardest but still possible ones out there due to the sheer number of hints you can have.

Speaking of hints, the game starts you off with 5, which is quite generous. When you see a little magnifying glass in each scene, you can pick it up and it’ll add another hint to your count. I’ve had up to 10 at one point, finding one in every scene. There’s another bonus to hunt as well that isn’t as necessary: the gas can. Basically, traveling from one location to the next costs 1 unit of gas (that applies if you’re going to the next town or flying the entire way across Europe) and each location hides 1 gas can to find. It doesn’t add a whole lot to the game play, but it does restrict those who likes to leave a couple in each location and “come back later.”

Hidden Relics has 5 mini-games built in that are quite a lot of fun to do – there are the loads of usual image manipulation ones (jigsaws and sliders) as well as memory and Hanoi’s Tower. They’re not particularly hard, and really just there to unlock another mini-game-like part of the core game. Each time you unlock a “gadget” you can use it in the core game to find special hidden antiques.

These gadgets range from the common ones like a magnifier and x-ray goggles, and mostly you just try to look for things that aren’t there when you don’t have the gadget over a part of the scene. They each have their own graphical filter effects, but the one that really confused the heck out of me was the Sonic Resonator. I don’t know whose idea it is, but this particular gadget twists the image behind it and animates it so you’d get dizzy just looking at it. Its sole purpose is to find special antiques that makes music, but I’m sure it could’ve been better represented than with wiggly lines.

The antique list also tend to “fall off” the screen. There are only so many slots in the “special objects” list, and whatever cannot fit on there is simply not shown until you find some of them. Once you find a special antique, you will be rewarded with a description. That’s it. I don’t see a book full of these objects to look at, and I don’t see a handbook that you can access via the main menu to scroll through at my leisure either. For a mini-game, that doesn’t seem very rewarding. You could skip it and get a lower letter grade, and even if you grades were low you can still play through hard on the next play mode.

Like in other object hunting games, Hidden Relics suffer from the randomization problem. It doesn’t randomize intelligently. If you were presented with two of the same scenes in sucessive chapters, you could see half the list repeated in the same scenes. Certainly makes the game easier, but that’s not exactly its intention.

While Hidden Relics features a higher resolution than other object hunting games (1024 x 768) it is definitely leaps and bounds ahead in terms of its graphics engine. Ravenhearst at 640 x 480 can run pretty sluggishly sometimes, yet Hidden Relics at this high resolution suffers no slow-downs or lag whatsoever on this mid-range computer. Whatever they did to make it so efficient, they did it right.

While I do love the new resolution, I can never understand why the HUD is huge. I mean, it’s huge. Screen real estate is precious; it should be as much hunting screen as possible! The waste of space in this game rivals that of Mortimer Beckett. If you believe I’m being overly critical here, let’s think about it this way. The game screen in this game is 800×600. The entire screen is 1024×768. (800×600)/(1024×768) x 100% = 61%. Let’s look at Hidden Expedition: Everest. (800×510)/(800×600) x 100% = 85%. That’s a whole 24% of screen real estate not being taken up by unnecessary graphical user interface elements.

And by unnecessary, I really mean it. The hint button is huge, the clock is huge, the buttons along the bottom for gadgets all large. Sure, you might argue that pixel by pixel, there’s more object hunting to be had in Hidden Relics, but it’ll all look the same on a 19″ monitor. Not many people play their hidden object games in window mode; the more of the screen used in hiding objects, the better.

Another minor glitch that might annoy some but not others: no alt-tab support. It’s more of a “weird” alt-tab support, since it’d alt-tab to my windows being the native resolution of the game isntead of my usual resolution. No biggie – I can still take notes, but working at the same time is out of the question. Some older gamers prefer their resolution at 800 x 600 at all times, and the 1024 x 768 might pose problems.

Hidden Relics has no “timeless” mode, which could exclude a huge number of gamers. It does save mid-game, but objects will reappear if you exit an area and come back to it (your list will remain the same, but the area will be cluttered again.) When you finish the game once, you can start a new game on “hard” which really just means a more stringent timer. The game isn’t especially long, at 10 chapters, it could easily be finished in an afternoon. The last chapter, however, require you to visit every location, and it can be a bit of a drawn-out affair. Overall, it’s a great game – the pros out-weigh the cons.

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